So I had my reconstruction surgery last Thursday, the 24th of June, and I stayed in the hospital for five nights afterward, so they could track my recovery and make sure nothing went wrong. And something did go wrong, to my surprise! I developed a thing called a hematoma on my belly, which had to be surgically removed immediately. It wasn’t painful or scary––in fact, I didn’t even notice it at all––my surgeon spotted it while doing a routine check-up. It was mildly humorous––he was just about to get off work, and it took him several minutes of hemming and hawing before he finally conceded that it needed immediate attention. I felt kinda bad, but it wasn’t my fault.
The main surgery, like I’ve said, was called a DIEP flap procedure (deep inferior epigastric perforators). They literally sliced off an entire roll of fat from my belly (skin and all), trimmed and molded it a little, then blooped it inside my boob cavity. If you’re interested in seeing exactly what was done, here’s a video. My procedure was different only in that all of my boob skin (including the nipple) was preserved, so they just made a large slit in the bottom of it and slid the “flap” (belly section) up inside.
It looks to me like in the video, they didn’t really get the woman’s contours exactly right. I feel pretty fortunate that I had the head of the department working on me, and he seems to have worked pretty hard to make the flap match my remaining boob in size and style. It’s still a little swollen, so I won’t know exactly what it’s going to look like for a few more weeks, but so far, it looks great! Unfortunately they weren’t able to do anything about my sad-looking nipple. It’s a shadow of what it once was, looks pretty lifeless most of the time, but that’s totally okay. It’s amazing they were able to save it at all!
I’d say the most painful thing I’m experiencing as a result of the procedure is my new belly button. They had to get rid of my original one with the rest of that belly roll, so they made me a new one, located pretty much exactly where the old one was, but a little off-center and an outie, which Adam says is cute, but I feel like I’ll never be able to look at it again. Is that OCD? I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t know why, but if I use my belly muscles much at all, that new belly button will come alive, and not in a good way. It feels like this:
Annihilation was a creepy movie, but it felt like they ran out of time writing it, and just threw together an ending. Unfortunate. Anyway, yeah, it feels like my intestines are trying to strangle me, right at my belly button. Such an uncomfortable feeling! Hopefully it’ll go away in time.
I thought it was so funny, in the video of the procedure, the plastic surgeon says that they’ll be taking fat from the woman’s belly “in order to improve her abdominal contour.” The field of plastic and reconstruction surgery must be so convoluted. Their baseline MO is obviously science and functionality-based, but it’s inextricably wrapped up with subjective beauty standards. When all of this started for me, my mastectomy surgeon as well as my plastic surgeon both encouraged me to have this procedure done. They told me about other options––the bare bones route would have been for me to get a simple mastectomy and call it a day, but they assumed (correctly!) that I would want to keep some semblance of what I had before, and be a little skinnier too. I don’t really know how I feel about all of this, but it’s an interesting thing to chew on.
I was expecting to be significantly skinnier, actually, but apparently they just took the one roll, and smoothed out the rest of my remaining belly fat. So now I just look like I did before all of this started, which is great, but––what with the long recovery time, menopause, and my general hatred of working out––I imagine it’ll creep back on me eventually. I was curious about my astrology chart the other day and looked up my specific combo of signs (Cancer Sun, Gemini Moon, Sagittarius Rising), and it said these people love exercise in every form… and again I wondered why I enjoy astrology at all.
ONE DAY LATER
Just had my post-op and got the last of my three drains removed, hooray! If you’re unfamiliar, when surgery is performed on a body, drain tubes are left inside to get rid of excess blood and fluids that were either left behind or build up afterward. They run out of the body and into lemon-shaped plastic sacks that you have to empty twice a day. Two of my drain exits were located immediately above my hoochie-coo, so I wasn’t able to wear underwear until today. It feels grrrreat!
Dr. Keith (my plastic surgeon) told me that I’m healing up nicely. He said that I still have a significant amount of swelling, which will eventually go down. He indicated that my belly button was comically swollen, which leads me to believe that maybe it’s not actually going to be an outie after all? Fingers crossed. He also said that I should aim to be standing up straight by the weekend, and that I should start walking around the block at least once a day. Which I am totally down for! Yes! I can do this!
To keep myself occupied during this time, I’ve been drawing a lot––mainly leggy women in interesting positions––it’s my comfort zone. I’ve also been reading a book called Cold Comfort Inn, which is delightful! When Adam’s home, he’ll play Halo, and I like watching, even though I’m constantly biting my tongue to shreds and tensing every muscle in my body (ouch). Aside from that, I’m on my phone, which is really getting annoying. I don’t like how automatically I reach for it when I don’t have anything else to do. Like, why can’t I just be unoccupied for ten minutes?? So addicted… grumblegrumble… Anyway, I think that’s enough of an update for now! I have plenty of other thoughts bumping around in my head though, so I’ll probably be posting again soon.